A notable instance of the fleecing of unsuspecting and credulous persons occurred in the early eighties, during the furor occasioned by the introduction of Mr. Edison's electric-light system. A corporation claiming to have a self-generating dynamo (practically perpetual motion) advertised its preposterous claims extensively, and actually succeeded in selling a large amount of stock, which, of course, proved to be absolutely worthless.
To one who is unacquainted with the trying circumstances attending the introduction and marketing of patented devices, it might seem unnecessary that an inventor and his business associates should be obliged to take into account the unlawful or ostensible competition of pirates or schemers, who, in the absence of legal decision, may run a free course for a long time. Nevertheless, as public patronage is the element vitally requisite for commercial success, and as the public is not usually in full possession of all the facts and therefore cannot discriminate between the genuine and the false, the legitimate inventor must avail himself of every possible means of proclaiming and asserting his rights if he desires to derive any benefit from the results of his skill and labor. Not only must he be prepared to fight in the Patent Office and pursue a regular course of patent litigation against those who may honestly deem themselves to be protected by other inventions or patents of similar character, and also proceed against more palpable infringers who are openly, defiantly, and illegitimately engaged in competitive business operations, but he must, as well, endeavor to protect himself against the assaults of impudent fraud by educating the public mind to a point of intelligent apprehension of the true status of his invention and the conflicting claims involved.
When the nature of a patent right is considered it is difficult to see why this should be so. The inventor creates a new thing--an invention of utility--and the people, represented by the Federal Government, say to him in effect: "Disclose your invention to us in a patent so that we may know how to practice it, and we will agree to give you a monopoly for seventeen years, after which we shall be free to use it. If the right thus granted is invaded, apply to a Federal Court and the infringer will be enjoined and required to settle in damages." Fair and false promise! Is it generally realized that no matter how flagrant the infringement nor how barefaced and impudent the infringer, no Federal Court will grant an injunction UNTIL THE PATENT SHALL HAVE BEEN FIRST LITIGATED TO FINAL HEARING AND SUSTAINED? A procedure, it may be stated, requiring years of time and thousands of dollars, during which other infringers have generally entered the field, and all have grown fat.
Thus Edison and his business associates have been forced into a veritable maelstrom of litigation during the major part of the last forty years, in the effort to procure for themselves a small measure of protec- tion for their interests under the numerous inventions of note that he has made at various times in that period. The earlier years of his inventive activity, while productive of many important contributions to electrical industries, such as stock tickers and printers, duplex, quadruplex, and automatic telegraphs, were not marked by the turmoil of interminable legal conflicts that arose after the beginning of the telephone and electric-light epochs. In fact, his inventions; up to and including his telephone improvements (which entered into already existing arts), had been mostly purchased by the Western Union and other companies, and while there was more or less contesting of his claims (especially in respect of the telephone), the extent of such litigation was not so conspicuously great as that which centred subsequently around his patents covering incandescent electric lighting and power systems.
Through these inventions there came into being an entirely new art, complete in its practicability evolved by Edison after protracted experiments founded upon most patient, thorough, and original methods of investigation extending over several years. Long before attaining the goal, he had realized with characteristic insight the underlying principles of the great and comprehensive problem he had started out to solve, and plodded steadily along the path that he had marked out, ignoring the almost universal scientific disbelief in his ultimate success. "Dreamer," "fool," "boaster" were among the appellations bestowed upon him by unbelieving critics. Ridicule was heaped upon him in the public prints, and mathematics were called into service by learned men to settle the point forever that he was attempting the utterly impossible.
But, presto! no sooner had he accomplished the task and shown concrete results to the world than he found himself in the anomalous position of being at once surrounded by the conditions which inevitably confront every inventor. The path through the trackless forest had been blazed, and now every one could find the way. At the end of the road was a rich prize belonging rightfully to the man who had opened a way to it, but the struggles of others to reach it by more or less honest methods now began and continued for many years. If, as a former commissioner once said, "Edison was the man who kept the path to the Patent Office hot with his footsteps," there were other great inventors abreast or immediately on his heels, some, to be sure, with legitimate, original methods and vital improvements representing independent work; while there were also those who did not trouble to invent, but simply helped themselves to whatever ideas were available, and coming from any source.
Possibly events might have happened differently had Edison been able to prevent the announcement of his electric-light inventions until he was entirely prepared to bring out the system as a whole, ready for commercial exploitation, but the news of his production of a practical and successful incandescent lamp became known and spread like wild-fire to all corners of the globe. It took more than a year after the evolution of the lamp for Edison to get into position to do actual business, and during that time his laboratory was the natural Mecca of every inquiring person. Small wonder, then, that when he was prepared to market his invention he should find others entering that market, at home and abroad, at the same time, and with substantially similar merchandise.
Edison narrates two incidents that may be taken as characteristic of a good deal that had to be contended with, coming in the shape of nefarious attack. "In the early days of my electric light," he says, "curiosity and interest brought a great many people to Menlo Park to see it. Some of them did not come with the best of intentions. I remember the visit of one expert, a well-known electrician, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, and who then represented a Baltimore gas company. We had the lamps exhibited in a large room, and so arranged on a table as to illustrate the regular layout of circuits for houses and streets. Sixty of the men employed at the laboratory were used as watchers, each to keep an eye on a certain section of the exhibit, and see there was no monkeying with it. This man had a length of insulated No. 10 wire passing through his sleeves and around his back, so that his hands would conceal the ends and no one would know he had it. His idea, of course, was to put this wire across the ends of the supplying circuits, and short-circuit the whole thing--put it all out of business without being detected. Then he could report how easily the electric light went out, and a false impression would be conveyed to the public. He did not know that we had already worked out the safety-fuse, and that every group of lights was thus protected independently. He put this jumper slyly in contact with the wires-- and just four lamps went out on the section he tampered with. The watchers saw him do it, however, and got hold of him and just led him out of the place with language that made the recording angels jump for their typewriters."
Source of this article：http://axsox.zw775.com/html/802c098538.html
Copyright statement: The content of this article was voluntarily contributed by internet users, and the views expressed in this article only represent the author themselves. This website only provides information storage space services and does not hold any ownership or legal responsibility. If you find any suspected plagiarism, infringement, or illegal content on this website, please send an email to report it. Once verified, this website will be immediately deleted.